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The project aims at looking beyond the smiles of the next person, to see what’s really beneath, what’s really going on? How people really need help and won’t bother saying anything about it but would rather cover it up with a façade of strength, with a smile.
It’s time to look beneath the smile and lend a helping hand. People are going through real things, these are their stories.
We hope that you’d be kind enough to leave a comment. Your feedback is important to us.
Today’s story was sent in by one of our readers @wandeSPICE
This is his story.
The ‘Beneath the Smile’ Project.
I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
*Steps into court dock* lol
This is a tell all….Yes… Everything.
Err… I don’t even know where to start. But this piece was gingered when I stumbled on this blog-site somehow. I spent about 3hrs reading everyone’s story (about 15 of them) and tears kept flowing down my eyes no matter how hard I tried to keep them back. The tears weren’t only because I was touched by what other people were going through, and still managed to put up a smile as a façade, but also because memories of mine kept coming bit by bit, and then I decided to write mine.
I’m not much of a writer, so pardon me if this isn’t written in a right “story-line”. Anyways, wandeSPICE, as I’m being called, is a name I got myself in 2006 while I was supposedly a student of OAU ife.
Wande, a short of Akinwande, my first name. And SPICE, an acronym for Special Person In Christ’s Eye.
“Just because you know my name, doesn’t mean you know me… just because I smile, doesn’t mean I’m happy… you think you know me? Think again… you think you know my story? Guess again”
Growing up for me was just like any normal kid, showered with love and care from both parents. They weren’t extremely rich, but they made sure we were comfortable.
My first challenge was growing up to have bow legs… yeah, my both legs were really bow, that I was told the bows were almost touching the ground, imagine. Hence, I had my 1st surgery at age 4, at the then best Orthopaedic hospital, Obafemi Awolowo University teaching hospital (OAUTH), and with the then best orthopaedic surgeon, Doctor Rufai on my case, so we were rest assured everything would be fine. As I was told, although I still remember vividly when the 1st leg was operated on, It went well and all, but before the second one, which was also to be done that same day, the doctor asked for a short break, but didn’t come back as at the time he said he would. As that was still the era of no mobile phones, locating him was hectic. Somehow, a nurse just came to suggest a club house, that he could possibly be there.
Lo and behold, our dear doctor Rufai was found there. After apologizing for not showing up early that he lost track of time and all, he was brought back to the theatre where I was, I remember my mum being sceptical about him doing the surgery that night, for possibilities of him being drunk, or trying to rush up the surgery to get back to his friends at the club house or something. But he claimed he was a professional and all, knowing what he was doing. All the nurses were telling her to calm down, that he’s the best and bla bla bla… and so he did the surgery on the 2nd leg. When I woke up after the operation, I remember my mum telling me she was worried, because the surgery was faster than the 1st one, and as such, she feared her premonitions were coming to pass.
But sha sha, we forgot about it. Time came for the POP’s to be removed… when I started walking back, it was discovered that the left leg was perfect, but the other (the 2nd 1 that was operated upon) was thinner and shorter than the other. And gradually, it began to go back to being bow. I can’t really remember, but I guess my mum would have been screaming “I said it, I knew that guy was drunk” and all of that. But in all of that, I wasn’t even all that worried (abi what would a small boy like me know as at then) but I knew my parents weren’t happy, my mum especially, Talking about suing and all. But my dad, the no wahala person (I love him die) talked her out of it, I’m sure he made her see a million and one reasons not to.
In short sha, another surgery was arranged, and yet another… after 3 surgeries, my right leg sha is yet back to normal, although a lot better, so I still thank God. In all of this, I still have that pain within me that the carelessness of 1 doctor somewhere did this to me, and so I decided to be a medical doctor. This leads to another challenge.
I forgot to add that I was brilliant growing up. I was always amongst the top three in my primary school, but then, in secondary school, I became unserious. I wasn’t failing, but I cared less about studying, simply because there was no position grading system, so I felt like there was no competition, as far as I didn’t fail any subject. I got used to this, and I started to jerk backwards in my academics.
I got into OAU through predegree in 2006, because I couldn’t meet the cut-off of for medicine in my Jamb, with the hope of graduating as a medical doctor 6yrs after, but something went wrong along the line. I remember vividly when my parents came to pick me up from the campus. How they heard, I don’t know. The 2-hours trip home was traumatising; my mum cried all through, and my dad was just there silent throughout.
I got home, went into my room and locked myself up for days without eating or speaking to anyone (atleast, so they thought, but err, yours truly sneaks out of his room when everyone’s out, or in the middle of the night to get food and also store up some that would last me till the next launch-out day, and I had my phone to talk to friends and all, but I was still sad and felt bad with myself though).
Anyway, after about a week, I guess, my mum came back home and slid a newspaper page through the door and said “pick the one you can do and let me know immediately”. I stared at the paper for a while before standing up to get it. Alas, it was Covenant University admission page. I was shocked! I looked through in disgust, but then what could I do? This was my mum giving me another chance. I decided Economics, at least I felt it would be a cool. So I went out to meet my parents, I told them I decided Economics. But my dad that had kept quiet all along just snapped out “are you out of your mind? You didn’t see any better course to select of all that’s there? Single Honours? I can’t waste my money on that! You will now graduate to become an economics teacher? You must be a professional!” at that point he said economics teacher, I wish I could laugh, but then I tried to keep my cool. He then said I should choose an engineering course, since CU doesn’t offer Medicine. I looked through, and I felt ICT was the simplest of them all, so I chose it.
I got my jamb form together with my younger sister (yes, she caught up with me). This made me think about my whole life. How much of a failure I was. I was gradually sinking into depression. I couldn’t study, I would just find myself crying to sleep. So after the jamb exam, I bailed out of the house, dropping a note! (just as you would see in nollywood movies). I changed my numbers, and went to stay at a friend’s. One fateful day, I called my sister to ask how everyone was and all, but I got a shocker. She told me that my mum suddenly resigned from work and packed her stuff and left the house after I did! I was broken! I knew I was in for more than I bargained!
I Summoned courage to call my mum, we both cried for a while, then she told me she moved to benin, where she knew nobody, to start her life afresh! Sounded like a joke. But it was real. I felt worse, because I knew it was all my fault. They’ve been having their own issues, but the fact that she walked out as at the same time I did. I started to pity my dad, because he was all alone. My siblings were in different boarding houses, mum’s moved out, and there I was, prodigal. I called him, We had a looooong talk, and I decided to go back home. He tried to make me see the bad in my mum for what she did, and insisted we cut her off, not talking to her again and all. I thought to myself that this man must be joking. How possible?! But I told him okay sha. He tried all his best to make us comfortable; made sure we never lacked anything. Mum on the other hand was trying her best. And we were enjoying the best of both worlds, hehee… imagine getting money for the same stuff from both parties because you knew both of them wouldn’t get to talk about it. But then, loads of pressure was on me. Family members calling me, saying stuff like “you’re the 1st child, a man, you should fix your parents’ marriage” and all of that.
In the heat of all of these, I resumed University, everywhere was so cool and all, and all I had in mind was what I’m gonna get out of this place. Make my parents happy, and just graduate peacefully.
We were 4 in a room; myself, one other 100level boy and two 300level boys. This helped me a lot, because unlike now that the 100levels are all kept in one hall, I had older people to rub minds with and all.
Back then in OAU I started showbiz with couple of friends, so when I got in to CU, I thought of a way I could implement that. I spoke to my 300level friends about it, and all I got was “forget it! CU will frustrate your effort! It can never work here”. I didn’t let all of that deter me. I still felt it could be possible. I remember my 1st Sunday in Uni, I went to chapel, and the only statement I remember from the mouth of pastor Ntia was “receive the grace to do that which had never been done, that seems impossible” hahaa… I felt like that was all I needed.
After the service, I went straight to the pastors’ office, told him about my parents and my plan to start something in CU. He prayed with me and I left. I went to my drawing board and the planning started. That gave birth to “Xclusive Awards”. I went home for the Easter break, and on good Friday, 9months after my mum left, she came back home. It was like a movie, because all I saw was dad hugging her, no stories, nothing. They went inside, and probably had their “talk”, and they’ve been living happily ever after.
Ok, back to Xclusive Awards. To many people in CU, this event had sooo many translations or interpretations. But to me, it was an investment gone bad. The 1st one I organized was in my first year. It seemed so colourful and all, but something went wrong; them bad belle people. After the event, people kept hailing me, calling me cash money and all. But unknown to many, that particular event left me broken. Not only was I disappointed in myself again that the event didn’t go as planned, but I was indebted in millions of naira. It was a tough one for me! I lived in fear of embarrassment from my debtors. I couldnt tell anyone, not even my parents. Walking around school that year, I hear people talk about me, and how rich I am and all of that, but beneath the smile lies all that pain. No one knew the true story. But with the help and grace of God, I was able to pay up a little. Then I did something crazy! I got my school fees for 200level from home, and I used it to pay up a part of my debt! Yes, I did that! *sigh*. Somehow somehow I was able to survive the session without paying my fees, as no one would believe the “cash money” wouldn’t have paid fees.
Unrepentant me, as a risk taker that I am, I got over the whole thing, went back to my drawing board and started planning for another event, still a debtor oh, imagine. But still, I gathered my little savings, and a funny thing was that I was on my own jejely oh, people came to meet me to invest, because they felt it was a gold mine. I took their money, added to mine and organized yet another. This time, it was bigger and it swallowed a lot more money. Nigga was happy, hoping this was gonna be the big break. Hammer time! But the worst happened!
Chineke!, the event was kinda cancelled by some of the ogas at the top. Sooo many complications. Owo jona! I literally died and resurrected! I lost hope in everything! And need I add that I was still on a 1st class as at then, after my first semester 200Level, but after the whole thing, I gradually went into depression, couldn’t think straight anymore, lost the vibe for academics, lost hope in life itself, as I was face to face with everything I ever worked for, gone just like that, loads of debt, and to worsen the whole situation, even supposed friends that brought money to me to invest started coming one after the other asking for refunds. Shet… I cry day after day! You cant imagine. A 200level boy, about 21years old owing about 3million naira and not having 1naira in his account! Worst of all was that I couldn’t do my registration for both semesters in 200level cause I didn’t pay fees, which still affects me till today. Even when I was able to now clear off my fees and all, I still have registration challenges every semester. As I can’t register my courses like every normal student.
I’m presently in my 5th year only by the grace of God. I manually collate my results using complaint forms and all. I remember in my 400level during my IT, I got a call from my exam officer, and in his words, he said “wande, are you still a student of this school?” I said “yes”. He replied “I don’t think so oh, because according to my records, its like you’ve been withdrawn, I don’t have any record of you in the department”. Jesus! You can’t imagine all what went through my mind during that 1minute call. My mind raced back to my family, so many things. I ran straight to school the next day. I spoke with him, pleading and all. He then offered to help. I left school that day in tears for what I had become. He called me the 3rd day and said he had tried all he could, but couldn’t get all my results together, that most of them were missing, and so he suggests I repeat 300level! God!!! I’m sure I went into a coma and woke up all in a split second. I couldn’t believe my ears. Going back to 300level when I was meant to go to 500level. I went back to God, I prayed. Yes, I pray. I’m not that spiritual, but I don’t joke with my God. Even in my unfaithfulness, he remains ever faithful.
He answered my prayers just like he always does. I called my exam officer, and he said he’s been able to find some of my 300level results, and the few he couldn’t find, I would do again as carry over while repeating 400level, because my 400level results couldn’t be traced due to the whole attendance ish and all. Hahaa… I gathered courage and faith, and I went back to my father God, and I prayed some more. Lo and behold, he answered. We were able to sort some of the results, and hence no more repeat. Even though I now have carryovers to deal with, but I still am not repeating any class. Now, the once upon a time 1st class boy is now struggling on a 2:1 – 2:2 borderline in 500level.
I remember recently, I was talking to 1 girl in my class, shortly before the exams, asking her to put me through one course like that, and she said, “wande, what happened to you? remember in 100level, when you used to teach me maths & all”. I cried that day, because now, I don’t even think I know anything again. I just struggle to pass tests and exams.
Anyway, Back to my gbese gist. It was a crazy experience for me, as I kept on sinking more & more in debts. Bills kept increasing, & so was my debt too. So many thoughts ran through my mind. I had sooo many rich friends. The legit and illegal, all join. But I promised myself, and I promised God that I wasn’t gonna do anything illegit. Yahoo oh, with the plus or minus sef, whichever. But I will continue hustling, and I know one day, e go better. And someday, it actually did better. I had a very funny experience. I went out of school one weekend like that, and I found myself chilling at the lobby of the hotel I was in, then there was this nollywood movie showing, where things weren’t going well for one guy, and an angel appeared to him and told him it was because he wasn’t paying his tithe. It dawned on me that that message was for me. I went back to school, and somehow somehow, that same day, a classmate of mine just came up to me and said, “wande, do you pay tithes?” I was stunned! That was a confirmation. There and then, I decided I was gonna pay my tithe from my next allowance before paying my debt, as that was what I do with my monthly allowance; paying up debt. imagine. Anyway, I payed my tithe, and God blessed me. I started getting contracts, and I made money. To the extent that the next tithe I payed was for almost a million naira. I was able to clear up most of my debts. And so I went up in chapel to share the testimony, because I knew I owe God that in appreciation. But mhen, that singular act of appreciation to God turned into something else in school. People started to beef, misyarning and all sort. Some said he came to show off, some even said he came to the alter to lie. C’mon… sha sha, na una sabi.
I know I did that for my God, and he hasn’t stopped blessing me ever since, he remained ever faithful. I kept getting more contracts, and more money, and my tithes keep shooting up; some 6 zeros something. Yes, Na God!
So, going through all of that, and yet I still remained the jovial me, you see me putting up a smile every day, everywhere, but would retire to bed at night to cry my eyes out, hoping and praying. And every day, I set out in the quest for happiness. I’m not totally there yet, but I know someday soon, I will.
So, if you think your case is the worst ever, please think again, because you don’t know what the next person sitting next to you is going through. And in all situations, always give thanks to God because he knows the end from the beginning.
• • •
Don’t just read, say a prayer.
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
N.B. The project goes on with this Afternoon’s story ’Her Story, XXXVI’ by an Anonymous writer
You can still send in your own true stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
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